The Football Association has issued an update on the restructure of Steps 5/6 for the 2020/21 season.

(The Northern League first division is at Step 5 and the second division at Step 6 in the National League System.)

Three teams will be promoted to Step 4 from the Northern League,  North West Counties and the Northern Counties East Step 5 divisions where they will be joined automatically by the champions of the other 11 Step 5 divisions.

An additional four second placed clubs from these 11 division will, based on points per game basis, also receive automatic promotion while the seven remaining second placed clubs from these divisions will play a one-off fixture against the bottom placed clubs in the existing seven Step 4 divisions.

The bottom placed sides in the 14 existing Step 5 divisions will also be ranked on a points per game basis with the bottom 12 being relegated to the most geographically appropriate Step 6 division.

Clubs finishing in first, second, third and fourth places in the Step 6 divisions will be promoted to step 5 except in the case of the two South West Peninsula divisions where only the teams finishing in first and second place will be promoted.

Those clubs finishing in the bottom two places of the 20 Step 6 divisions will be liable to relegation.

Clubs wishing to be promoted from a Step 7 league must finish in first position, although clubs down to 5th position may be considered if the higher placed clubs don’t meet the appropriate entry criteria or do not wish to be promoted and for this season only more than one club may be considered from each league.

A maximum of 40 clubs will be promoted from Step 7 with reprieves, again on a points per game basis, if the number of eligible clubs does not reach that number.

The FA has carried out a mapping exercise (based on league tables at the end of December on a points per game basis).  A further mapping exercise will be carried out in March to be considered by the Leagues Committee on April 1.  No later than April 17 that update will be circulated to clubs and leagues, along with an indication of possible lateral movements for clubs between leagues.

These mapping exercises are to give the FA a draft indication of how leagues may look next season, but obviously no decisions will be made until the end of the season, once final league standings are confirmed.

On May 12 the committee will agree the draft allocation of clubs to step 5/6 leagues.  On May 12 clubs will be informed of lateral movements and will have a week to express any views.  The Step 5/6 allocations will be released on May 21.

The FA says its intention is to have 20 teams in Step 5 divisions.  It is also their aim to have, where possible, 20 teams at Step 6, but some divisions may operate with 18 or 19 teams next season.

To reflect changes to the National League System the FA’s referees department has decided that with effect from the start of the 2020/21 season the refereeing structure will be brought in line, with Step 3 & 4  being Contributory Leagues and Steps 5 & 6 being Supply Leagues.

The five Step divisions that currently have Contributory League status, Northern League Division One and the Premier divisions of the Eastern Counties, North-West Counties, Eastern Counties and Western League are all reclassified as Supply leagues with the effect in the region being the Northern League will have the same level of referees for both divisions –  a Step 5/6 referee.

A number of changes have been made to the second division schedule:

Wednesday 4th March 2020
Billingham Synthonia v Chester-le-Street (from 15/02)

Tuesday 24th March 2020
Birtley Town v Ryton & Crawcrook Albion (from 15/02)

Wednesday 25th March 2020
Willington v Carlisle City (from 12/02)

Saturday 28th March 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Chester-le-Street (from 11/03)

Tuesday 31st March 2020
Carlisle City v Crook Town (from 28/01)

Wednesday 1st April 2020
Esh Winning v Redcar Athletic (from 15/02)
Jarrow v Easington Colliery (from 14/02)
Willington v Bedlington Terriers (from 28/03)

Tuesday 7th April 2020
Tow Law Town v Carlisle City (from 15/02)

Wednesday 8th April 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Durham City (from 15/02)
Brandon United v Sunderland West End (from 15/02)
Crook Town v Birtley Town (from 11/04)

Saturday 11th April 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Birtley Town (from 29/01)

Wednesday 15th April 2020
Bedlington Terriers v Jarrow (from 11/04)
Willington v Newcastle University (from 15/02)

A number of fixtures have been re-arranged – most of the games affected by yesterday’s weather:

Tuesday 3rd March 2020
Shildon           v           West Auckland                     (from 15/02)
Tuesday 24th March 2020
Newton Aycliffe          v         Seaham Red Star       (from 15/02)
Wednesday 25th March 2020
Northallerton Town          v     Thornaby                   (from 11/04)
North Shields         v        Penrith                             (from 15/02)
Wednesday 1st April 2020
Whickham            v         Whitley Bay                      (from 15/02)
Tuesday 7th April 2020
Ashington          v          Guisborough Town             (from 15/02)
Saturday 11th April 2020
Northallerton Town          v       Seaham Red Star   (from 26/02)
Thornaby           v         Hebburn Town                    (from 15/02)
 Tuesday 14th April 2020
Ryhope CW    v    Northallerton Town (from 15/02)
Wednesday 22nd April 2020
Sunderland RCA          v          Consett                   (from 15/02)

West Allotment Celtic 2 Crook Town 4 – Ebac Northern League Division Two

Top of the table clashes don’t always live up to their billing, but this encounter was every bit as good as it promised to be.

West Allotment Celtic have been the pace setters in the second division, while going into the match, Crook were on a run of 12 wins, two draws and a defeat in their previous 15 league games.

The game got off to a brisk start with Crook winger Christian Holliday having a shot well saved by Allotment keeper Finn Hodgson.  That was soon followed by controversy with Allotment No. 9 claiming handball by a defender just as he was about to break clear, but referee Richard Rowe gave a free kick to the visitors – seeming to indicate a shirt pull by the attacker.

After the initial Crook effort, Allotment took the initiative but it was the visitors who grabbed the lead in the 13th minute.  The referee played a good advantage for a foul, allowing Holliday to break down the left and cross the ball, with No. 10 Nathan Stephenson scuffing the ball home under the keeper.

The lead lasted a matter of seconds with an excellent solo run and goal by Allotment left winger Abu Salim who turned the Crook defence one way then the other before prodding the ball past keeper Ronan Makepeace.

The chances kept on coming.

Two minutes later Holliday sent over another dangerous cross, met first time by No. 9 Daniel Maddison, with Hodgson making a fingertip save.  In the 20th minute his counterpart – Matty Hayton – put the hosts ahead.  Shane Jones pushed the ball out to left back Luke Parkinson who delivered a perfect cross between defenders and keeper which Hayton buried.

The game then developed into a midfield tussle, with both teams trying to thread the ball between defenders to release their strikers, with the defenders able to intercept it.  With the last attack of the half Crook were level.  The ball fell to captain Tom Gavin who was in bags of space 25 yards from goal.  His deflected shot left Hodgson rooted to the spot and all of a sudden it was 2-2.

In the second half it was Crook who seized the initiative, while Allotment couldn’t get their game back up and running.    Allotment captain Jack Errington was forced into a crucial interception of a Holliday cross, a Gavin free kick bounced just wide of the post and then Crook No. 15 Daniel Kent was within inches of connecting with a Calum Johnston cross.

Within a three minute spell Crook wrested control of the game.  A cross-cum-shot by Maddison floated over Hodgson and into the net off the right hand post.   And then two crucial contributions by Crook substitute Joseph Smith sealed the win.  In the 80th minute he managed to dispossess Hayton just as he was about to shoot and then a minute later his inch-perfect pass found fellow sub Kent who ran on and thumped the ball into the net to make it 2-4.

The win meant that Crook overtook Redcar Athletic into second place, but the title remains Allotment’s to lose.

Mike Snowdon

Ex Bedlington Terriers & Blyth Spartans director John Gunn has sadly passed away.

Terriers secretary Terry Brown said:

“John was director of the Terriers and helped us become a Northern League club. He also suggested we add “Terriers” to the name.

“John ran a successful coal merchant’s business for many years along with his wife Joan also ran the well known and popular Joal Sports shops, which were named after his two daughters Joanne & Alison. His Joal Sports Business also sponsored the terriers

All at Bedlington Terriers sends our condolences to Joan, family & friends.”


Whickham 3-1 Sunderland RCA – Ebac Northern League Division One

 Whickham picked up a crucial three points to move off the bottom of the table after a second-half comeback at home against Sunderland RCA.

The away side had the first chance of the game when Dylan Elliot struck just wide of the right hand post.

RCA took the lead 35 minutes in when Elliot’s corner was met by the head of Mark Davison, who headed beyond Whickham keeper Jack Wilson.

The visitors almost doubled their lead a minute later, when Jack Leonard cut inside, however his strike hit the inside of the post.

RCA’s period of pressure nearly paid off again, when Davison’s free kick from 25 yards out was well saved by Wilson.

The away side almost scored their second, when Davison laid the ball off to Nathan O’Neill, however he could only send his effort over the bar.

Five minutes later Whickham equalised, as Damien Stevens picked up the ball on the edge of the area, before curling his effort into the bottom corner.

Whickham went close again two minutes later, when Robert Dean brilliantly tipped Conor Newton’s effort over the bar.

The hosts took the lead 82 minutes in, when Scott Robson burst down the line, before crossing to Tom Scothern to tap home.

Whickham added a third in the 89th minute, when Max Cowburn’s free kick clipped the inside of the post before hitting the back of the net.

Sunderland RCA were the dominant team in the first half, as they looked threatening in attack and solid in defence.

Whickham came out the blocks in the second half and were a different team to the one in the first, as they dominated the half and fully deserved the win.

Whickham move up one place to 19th, whilst Sunderland RCA remain 12th in the league.

Adam Gill